Saturday, February 26, 2011



This is where I played ball in the inner courtyard, called out to my mom hoping that she would hear my plea to throw down some more tennis balls so I could continue to play tennis in the outer courtyard. (second photo)

But she was busy. So busy. Practicing the same measures of Chopin mazurkas she thought, would make her a star. She thought she would get a break living at the artist "ghetto" known as "Westbeth" where I grew up in Greenwich Village, NYC in the 70's and 80's. Where prostitutes, transvestites and drug addicts would filter and flirt along the West Side Highway and share their wares. They floated against the orange red sunset alongside the highway and I had already learned how to develop an immunity to them.

Riding on my banana seat bike alongside pier 41 would help while listening to Duran Duran's "New Moon on Monday" on my walkman. Because of course, the New Moon is a "lonely satellite," DD's lyrics make A LOT more sense now than they did when I was a bopper. But the rhythm and chords so profoundly moved me, and I was stirred by my course of travel. And Mom didn't know where I was. She never did. And it was alright.

Tough NYC in 1982 taught me how to be a free bird.
Mom taught me there is no way - I have to take care of my emotional sense.
Westbeth nurtured the artist in me.
And I ...ran with the passion.

When I played hide and seek in the creepy stairwells that reeked of urine, and saw weird shapes of people holding strange things at the far end of the hallway, I ran to music for comfort. The mazurkas would still be there like a hot meal on a table. There were many things about the place that I didn't want to understand but tried to.

I had my first kiss with my first "boyfriend," Ben on the third floor roof in 1982. When I passed my father's studio, I wanted to tell Ben that this was my father's space. A special place. He walked with red bandanas hanging out of his pocket and to a twelve year old, that was way more hip than showing her new boyfriend some paintings and a few tin "Chock Full O'Nuts" cans filled with screws and nails in moonlight.

The voice in me again wanted to say, "This is my father's..." but suddenly, it didn't seem to be important.

Tough NYC in 1982 taught me to be a free bird.
Mom taught me there is no way - I have to take care of my emotional sense.
Westbeth nurtured the artist in me.
And I ...I ran with the passion.

There is only one "C," (first picture, top) in the inner courtyard of Westbeth, and I found so many different things to do on it: I jumped from the end to the beginning, I skated on it, and even biked in and around it on my banana seat bike. In 1982, I was grown-up, so grown-up yet still a child.

On dull days, I just took my snoopy lunchbox and entertained myself with a picnic. I danced in the rain and watched the rain make uneven puddles in and around the "C". I watched my brother in the community room power kick for his black belt from the C. I prepared an animation show on film of Barbie dolls. I listened to Spencer Holst tell stories in the community room.

On rainy days, Dad would piece dollhouse furniture together from a kit. (My mom would later call him "The Man with the Golden Hands") and I could see why. Everything was perfectly glued and fitted together. I was so proud of my father but all I could say was a quiet "Thank you" and repeat after my Mom, "The Man with the Golden Hands." (Maybe this should be the name for a picture book?)

When he wasn't creating things for me, he worked with the famous visual designer, Ralph Lee. As long as I can remember, the greatest part of Halloween was the famous West Village parade that started in our building by  Ralph Lee who worked with Jim Henson of The Muppets back in the 1970's. Lee and my father made the most gossamer looking objects from ghouls and goblins to hideous looking creatures with eyeballs hanging out looking as if they were about to fall on me and segmented hands all held up with long poles and stilts. My mom once left an entire box of small miniatures boxes of candy corn before she took off for the parade and when we came back from the festivities, the box was torn up and candy corn was all over the hallway.

Like all children of divorce, I was torn between deciding which parent could and would offer more solace, strength and support. But on Halloween, I was...

...a free bird.

Mom taught me there is no way - I have to take care of my emotional sense.
Westbeth nurtured the artist in me.
And I ...I ran with the passion.